MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Valentine Day Movieholic

The declining appeal of horror movies didn’t last long. The resurrected Friday the 13th slew the competition, debuting to an estimated $42.3 million in the first three days of the President’s holiday weekend. The session also included national bows for the romantic comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic of $15.7 million that ranked fourth and the financial thriller The International slotted seventh on a gross of $9.6 million.

There was strong response for Two Lovers of $87,200 from a limited seven screen launch and new niche fare also contributed to record-breaking revenues for the holiday frame. The 3-D Imax Under the Sea launched on 49 sites generated $610,000 and the Bollywood entry Billu Barber clipped a stylish $508,000 from 70 engagements.

All told the marketplace received a hefty stimulus package that benefited a broad range of pictures new and old as well as the critically embraced and rejected.

The terror of Crystal Lake — Friday the 13th — had a heady run in the 1980s that sputtered out in a television series. It also had a brief revival earlier in the current decade and its latest incarnation was on track based on polling studies to clobber everything in its path. Thursday sneaks got the ball rolling with more than a $1 million tally followed by an $18 million opening day and the cheap thrills are already mapping out future mayhem.

Expectations were high for Confessions of a Shopaholic but its opening was somewhat curbed by both the horror yarn and the continuing potency of He’s Just Not That Into You, which finished third with $19.1 million. Competition from Taken cut into The International’s appeal but the latter film wasn’t expected to show much commercial potency and chilly critical response iced the deal.

President’s Day revenues are expected to ring up about $190 million for the three-day portion that bests last weekend’s box office by 25%. It should swell to close to $235 million for the full holiday period; that’s 43% improved from 2008 when the trio of Jumper, The Spiderwick Chronicles andStep Up 2 topped the charts with respective 4-day grosses of $32.1 million, $24.7 million and $22.1 million respectively.

Movie going since the start of 2009 has the industry happily surprised in the face of the current economic downturn that’s been injurious to virtually every other sector of the marketplace. Recent major staff cuts at the studios and mini-majors may prove to be overly cautious in light of the strong returns for such low risk entries as Paul Blart, Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire.

Slumdog if nothing else has won the audience award in the Oscar post-nomination window. Other best picture nominees as well as Doubt and The Wrestler, which secured berths in acting categories, are struggling to hold onto screens as the award telecast looms and the also-rans can expect almost instant extinction following next Sunday’s announcements.

– Leonard Klady

Estimates – February 13 – 16, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change * Theaters Cume
Friday the 13th WB 53.1 (17,110) 3105 53.13
He’s Just Not That Into You WB 22.9 (7,220) -31% 3175 58.4
Taken Fox 22.5 (7,230) -6% 3109 81.2
Coraline Focus 19.3 (8,310) -9% 2320 39.5
Confessions of a Shopaholic BV 17.4 (6,950) 2507 17.4
Paul Bart: Mall Cop Sony 14.0 (4,720) 6% 2965 112.8
The Pink Panther 2 Sony 10.9 (3,350) -25% 3245 24.2
The International Sony 10.8 (4,560) 2364 10.8
Slumdog Millionaires Fox Searchlight 8.6 (5,280) 0% 1634 88
Push Summit 8.4 (3,640) -30% 2313 20.8
Gran Torino WB 7.6 (3,290) -7% 2303 129.7
Hotel for Dogs Par 5.8 (2,610 -24% 2207 61.7
The Uninvited Par 4.9 (2,730) -26% 1803 24.3
Underworld 3 Sony 2.8 (2,260) -42% 1224 43.9
The Reader Weinstein Co. 2.6 (3,460) -11% 742 19.5
The Wrestler Fox Searchlight 2.2 (3,250) -23% 667 19.1
Curious Case of Benjamin Button Par 1.9 (2,080) -29% 909 122.6
My Blood Valentine 2D Lions Gate 1.8 (3,400) -2% 532 50.8
New in Town Lions Gate 1.7 (1,680) -51% 1022 14.5
Revolutionary Road Par Vantage 1.2 (2,310) -42% 511 20.5
Milk Focus 1.0 (2,530) -30% 387 26.7
Defiance Par Vantage .84 (1,900) -51% 442 26.5
Twilight Summit .77 (1,650) 37% 466 188.7
Under the Sea WB .74 (15,100) 49 0.74
Doubt Miramax .71 (2,180) -24% 326 30.1
Billu Barber Eros .58 (8,342) 70 0.58
Bride Wars Fox .56 (1,250) -67% 449 57.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $225.60
% Change (Last Year) 41%
% Change (Last Week) 25%
Also debuting/expanding
Frost/Nixon Uni .46 (1,700) -40% 270 16.4
The Class Sony Class/E1 .18 (5,550) 2% 33 0.83
Waltz with Bashir Sony Class/E1 .10 (1,980) -28% 50 1.4
Two Lovers Magnolia .09 (12,460) 7 0.09
Polanski Unauthorized Amadeus 2,950 (2,950) 1 0.01
Amarcord (reissue) Janus 2,710 (2,710) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – February 12, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (12) 212.8 16.70%
Fox (5) 199.3 15.70%
Sony (7) 192.2 15.10%
Paramount (5) 147.7 11.60%
Fox Searchlight (4) 109.6 8.60%
Universal (5) 71.2 5.60%
Lionsgate (4) 69.1 5.40%
Buena Vista (5) 62.1 4.90%
Paramount Vantage (2) 44.7 3.50%
MGM (3) 41.4 3.30%
Focus (2) 31.3 2.50%
Summit (3) 30.1 2.40%
Miramax (3) 18.4 1.40%
Weinstein Co. (5) 16.2 1.30%
Overture (2) 13.3 1.00%
Other * (36) 12.6 0.90%
* none greater than 0.35% 1272 100.00%
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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon